Today we sit down with Virginia author Elmer Seward. Elmer is going to tell us about his interesting work, his inspiration and share a bit about himself as we sample his writing.
Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
It’s funny; I never aspired to be a writer. It began mostly out of boredom during exercise four years ago. I began fashioning a plot and characters and then found myself compelled to put it on paper.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
This question is a bit difficult to answer because I have written my three novels in overlapping timeframes. As I am completing one novel, I am beginning the next. Moving back and forth between novels makes the process longer, but I would say twelve to eighteen months is the average.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
For me, writing is a two-part process. I exercise in the morning for about an hour each day. That is my thinking time. That’s where I develop the details of the setting, plot, and characters. Once I feel that I have a chapter or two ready to be written (which may take days or even weeks), I look for a quiet time at night or on Sunday to sit and put the ideas into words.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I think my exercise / think time is rather quirky. When I sit down to write, I already have all of the details and even some of the language already worked out. It is rare for me to sit at the laptop and stare at the screen trying to figure out what to say because I’ve already done that before I sit at the keyboard.
Q5) How are your books published?
I am an indie author.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I cook them up in my head from bits and pieces of things I hear and see. My second novel, Hearts in the Storm, was born out of a simple comment from our high school junior. She indicated that she wanted to join the Coast Guard so that she could help people. From that simple statement, the book took form as I walked the beach on vacation.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book?
I wrote my first novel, Dreams of the Sleepless, four years ago.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I spend most of my free non-writing time with family.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
I’m not sure that I have a favorite book. I like different books for different reasons. Some that I have enjoyed are Deliverance by James Dickey, The Firm by John Grisham, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, and Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks. This list is hardly inclusive, but it gives you an idea of my eclectic taste in reading.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
My wife is very encouraging and supportive. She has been my cheerleader, encouraging me during my frequent spells of self-doubt. On numerous occasions, she has been my sounding board, giving me insight into plot and characters. Her patience with my hours away as I write and rewrite has been remarkable. She has truly been my inspiration.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I think the most surprising thing about writing is that the characters take over. I find that the characters sometimes take me places that I didn’t intend to go. As the characters develop, they take on a life of their own and dictate details of the story. Hearts in the Storm is a good example. The character Sissy was very flat when I began the book. As I wrote, she developed into this paradoxical, tender-hearted spitfire. There are sections of the novel that her character dictated. They weren’t part of the original plan.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
Waiting. I’m impatient when it comes to writing. I want the story to be done now. I find myself rushing through sections of a book to move toward completion. In each of my three novels, I have realized that I needed to go back and flesh out some of the chapters that I rushed through. Unlike other authors who need to go back and cut, I need to go back and add.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have two published novels and a third to be released in the coming months. Although the soon to be released novel Set You Free is probably my best writing, my favorite is still my second novel, Hearts in the Storm. There is something about the tragedy and triumph of the main characters that draws me to that story.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
The best suggestion that I can give other writers is to create interesting characters. Telling a good story is really about creating interesting characters, letting them write themselves, and then letting them write the story. As an author, you must be willing to turn the storytelling over to the characters. After all, they know their story better than you do.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I haven’t received a lot of feedback, but one common theme is that they like the characters. One of the biggest compliments that I have received is that the characters are people you would like to know and hang with in real life.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
I really don’t have a preferred audience. If you like a touching story about broken individuals helping each other find hope, then my books will appeal to you.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
A good story is one part great characters, one part suspense, and one part surprise.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I’m not sure I ever knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’m still not sure that I know.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
My books Dreams of the Sleepless and Hearts in the Storm are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the iBook Store.
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
Sure. Here is an excerpt from Hearts in the Storm
He dragged himself out of the seaside door onto the long, wooden deck. Standing for a moment, he watched the waves whipping up foam as they battered the beleaguered sand. The surging water spewed shells and rocks along the shoreline only to snatch them up, like secrets dredged from the deep, in its frantic retreat. The sea was in constant motion. There was a storm off shore, and the beach was catching the brunt of its fury.
He took a long, slow sip of coffee, hoping to clear the cluttered remnants of last night’s bender. Wearing only a tattered pair of shorts, he stood watching the eastern sky. It was gray and ominous, but the thickly filtered daylight still hurt, and he watched the waves through squinted eyes at first.
Laying his cup on the railing, he leaned forward, straining to glimpse the pelicans riding the rolling waves just beyond the break. They would appear as they crested the top of the swells and then disappear as they glided down into the troughs between them. Occasionally, one would take flight, circle for a moment and then dive, disappearing beneath the water for a brief moment.
As he watched, something odd caught his attention. Just beyond the birds, another dark object in the water appeared and disappeared. At first, he thought it was one of the sea birds, but there was something unusual about the shape. Maybe it was a fin. It was common to see dolphins just off shore. It could be a shark fin. They prowled the shoreline more often than the local tourist companies or city officials wanted to announce. It crested into view again. No, it was too far out and in the sunless water, too dark to identify . . . but not a fin. It disappeared again. He watched closely, waiting for it to crest. There it was, but it was taller. It was moving. It was . . . an arm. A head and a waving arm being tossed in the tumultuous water.
The sound of the waves, roaring and crashing, was all consuming, but faintly, he heard another sound, almost imperceptible. He strained and was sure he heard a voice in the intermittent roar and crash, a voice crying for help.
He searched frantically up and down the beach. There was no one. He had to act quickly. He grabbed an old cork safety ring that hung as a decorative prop on the deck of the cottage and jumped down the steps to the beach. As he ran, his feet sank into the loose, shifting sand. It felt like he was lifting leaden legs as he struggled forward. Finally reaching the firmer wet sand, he sped up only to hit the water. Again, each step was like dragging an anvil. He pressed forward into the waves, diving into each one to avoid being knocked backward. As he wrestled in the rush and the roar, he tried desperately to find the person who would rise and then vanish in the rolling action of the ocean.
Swimming now, fighting against the current determined to rush him back to shore, he was becoming exhausted. The water was battering and pulling him, but he pressed on, trailing the safety ring in his wake.
He was close now. He could see the figure. It was a girl, maybe in her mid-teens. She was flailing her arms, desperately trying to keep her head above water. She wasn’t being successful. Alternately, she was choking, gasping, and screaming as her head broke the water. Then she was sucked down again.
As he swam to within feet of the struggling figure, the girl disappeared. He searched frantically as waves crashed over him. He dove hoping to find her. The dark, churning water was murky and obscured his vision. Then he saw a hand just below him. He swam deeper, his lungs burning. Now, her face emerged from the darkness. Her eyes were wide with panic as she clawed desperately with outstretched arms. One more stroke propelled him downward. He stretched out to grasp her flailing hands. His fingers were inches away. In the next instant, she was swept away in the shifting current. He peered through the darkness, his lungs about to burst. She was gone.
About Elmer Seward
Elmer Seward was born and raised along the Chesapeake Bay in southeast Virginia. Growing up, the cemetery behind his house was his playground. The metaphorical theme of death and rebirth that figures prominently in his novels is probably influenced in some way by the time that his mother heard, through the screened window, a small voice crying for help. Rushing from the house and through the yard, she discovered her all-too-curious six-year-old son at the bottom of a freshly dug grave. In that moment, he discovered that trouble is much easier to get into than it is to get out of. Sometimes we need help getting out of the hole that we jump into willingly.
About Hearts in the Storm
A woman haunted by loss, a man shattered by failure, a wave-battered boat in the clutches of a monster storm, a love that reaches beyond the grave – Hearts in the Storm.
Trista’s life has fallen apart. A failed marriage and the death of her daughter have left her struggling with loss and regret. Desperate to free her conscience, she formulates a plan that takes her to North Carolina’s Outer Banks on the anniversary of her daughter’s death. However, Hurricane Renee, a monster storm bearing down on the tiny barrier islands, threatens her perfect plan. In the face of the storm, only one man is willing to help. Reluctantly, Trista accepts the help of an irresponsible drunkard known as “Duck.” She soon discovers that Duck is haunted by his own demon, the death of his best friend Brodie. Together they drive a wave-battered boat into the teeth of the hurricane. Each one hopes to conquer the tempest that rages around them and the tempest that rages within.
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